In a huge win for Melbourne father Sagardeep Singh (Arora) and his son Sidhak Singh, the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal has ruled that Melton Christian School breached the Equal Opportunity Act.
The tribunal ruled out that the Christian school has discriminated against a five-year-old boy when it banned him from wearing a traditional Sikh patka.
The decision, which was handed down on Tuesday, could have wide-ranging implications for schools and the uniform policies they set.
Mr. Singh argued that the school, in Melbourne’s west, breached the Equal Opportunity Act and discriminated against his son, by not allowing him to wear the patka.
The school argued that an exemption in the Equal Opportunity Act, Section 42, allows schools to set and enforce “reasonable” standards of dress for students in consultation with the community.
But VCAT member Julie Grainger said this exemption did not arise, and she was not satisfied that the school took into account the views of the school community when it set its uniform policy.
Last February Sagardeep Singh and his wife tried to enroll their son in prep at the independent Christian school.
But the enrolment did not go ahead after principal David Gleeson told the parents that their son would have to comply with the school’s uniform policy which states that boys must have short hair, and can’t wear head coverings related to a non-Christian faith.
The school council refused to change the uniform policy for Sidhak.
The VCAT decision is also a win for the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, who intervened in the case as the independent watchdog for equality law. They viewed it as a test case for section 42.